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Physical inactivity costs E1.6B per year

23rd September 2010

Physical inactivity costs E1.6B per year

[Posted: Tue 21/09/2010 by Deborah Condon -]

Physical inactivity is costing the Irish economy an estimated €1.6 billion every year, a seminar has been told.

Speaking at the third annual seminar of the Nutrition and Health Foundation (NHF), the foundation's manager, Dr Muireann Cullen, said that this figure will increase further unless this problem is dealt with.

"The comprehensive Slán survey of lifestyle, attitudes and nutrition showed 38% of Ireland's population is overweight and 23% is classed as obese. A major factor contributing to this is the fact that 59% of adults do not meet the Department of Health's recommended levels of physical activity," Dr Cullen told the seminar.

She pointed out that Ireland has ‘one of the highest rates of childhood obesity in the world', with 10% of children aged between five and 12 fitting into this category.

"At the same time, a staggering three out of four nine year old children do not get the recommended level of physical activity, according to the 2009 Growing Up in Ireland report," Dr Cullen said.

She insisted that the scale of physical inactivity in Ireland, coupled with current obesity levels, ‘makes this a national health issue of real significance'.

"Industry, Government and citizens all have a part to play in tackling this ticking time bomb. It is important to acknowledge there are sometimes differences of approach, disagreements, even tensions between these three groups. However, all now recognise that imaginative, transformative thinking is required to tackle this national health issue. Through a co-operative framework, the NHF aims to bring these groups together to raise awareness of the need for a balanced lifestyle and how we can all play our part in achieving a healthier society," Dr Cullen said.

Also speaking at the conference, the Minister for Older People and Health Promotion, Aine Brady, said that responsibility for achieving and maintaining good health is ‘multi-layered', involving the individual, the health sector, the education sector, the food industry and society in general.

Meanwhile, Dr Bernadette Carr, medical director of VHI Healthcare, presented an analysis of the cost of obesity across the lifespan from a health insurers' perspective. According to Dr Carr, the impact of obesity is being felt from the very earliest life stage, with an increase in the rate of maternal obesity and the resulting health effects this has on both mother and child.

"A recent study in the Coombe Hospital found that 28% of women booking for antenatal care were overweight and 13% were obese. Over 45% of the morbidly obese women had a Caesarean section.

"Since 2000, the number of claims to VHI for Caesarean sections has increased by almost 10% and the benefit paid has almost trebled from €6.5m to €17.8m. In addition, babies at the highest end of the spectrum, in terms of birth weight or who grow rapidly in infancy, are at significant risk of developing obesity. Obese babies are nine times more likely to become obese adults than normal weight babies," Dr Carr explained.


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